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Reimagining Your Syllabus Using Universal Design for Learning

Author: Monica Berns; Michelle Patterson; Christine Parsons

Gone are the days when the syllabus provided only class expectations and grading criteria. Today, the syllabus can be a living document to provide resources that are accessible and promotes student engagement and agency. The syllabus should work as a communication tool between instructors and learners in a welcoming, collaborative tone. What are better ways to reimagine syllabus?

Course management systems are the norm and lend themselves to easily create a syllabus that includes multimedia, descriptions, tasks to complete and yes, grading policies.  Universal Design for Learning (UDL) is a framework for designing quality instruction that is based on neuroscience and how the brain works. UDL recognizes learner variability, in that every learner comes to the classroom with their own unique learner profile. To address the needs of all learners, UDL bases its instructional design around three principles as follows:

  • Multiple Means of Engagement (The “Why” of Learning)
  • Multiple Means of Representation (The “What” of Learning)
  • Multiple Means of Action & Expression (The “How” of Learning)

To create instructional experiences that ensure all learners can master course content, it is necessary to consider what barriers exist in the syllabus and how they can be addressed. Your syllabus is one of the first contacts that your students will have with you and the course content. A well designed syllabus is your start to a great semester. Using the principles of UDL, you can reimagine your syllabus with a few tips provided in the this document.